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PM Yitzhak Rabin and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Edward Djerejian prepare to shake hands at the beginning of their first meeting held at Rabin’s Tel Aviv office on Jan. 14, 1994. Djerejian and Rabin were expected to discuss the planned summit in Geneva between U.S. President Bill Clinton and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Analysis & Opinions - Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast

Two peoples. Two states. Why U.S. diplomacy in Israel and Palestine needs vision, partners, and a backbone

| Feb. 29, 2024

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Ed Djerejian says Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin once told him, “There is no military solution to this conflict, only a political one.” Rabin was assassinated a few years later, and today bullets are flying, bombs are falling, and 1,200 Israelis are dead after the Hamas terrorist attacks of October 7 and nearly 30,000 Gazans have been killed in the Israeli response. Yet Djerejain still believes that a breakthrough is possible even in the current moment, as horrible as it is. Djerejian, a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Relations, says the crisis has shaken the regional status quo to the point where—if the United States pursues diplomacy that includes principled pragmatism, coalition-building, and good old-fashioned backbone—a breakthrough may finally be possible. But in a recent paper he argues that any breakthrough will have to be built around a two-state solution, which he says is the only path to peace and stability not only in Israel and Palestine, but the wider Middle East. Djerejian’s career as a diplomat spanned eight U.S. presidential administrations beginning with John F. Kennedy’s, and he also served as U.S. Ambassador to Syria and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.  

People take photographs near a John Harvard statue, left, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024, on the campus of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass.

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Analysis & Opinions - Wall Street Journal

Students Aren’t the Obstacle to Open Debate at Harvard

| Feb. 22, 2024

Professors hear a great deal these days about how hard it is to get our students to listen to, much less to engage with, opinions they dislike. The problem, we are told, is that students are either “snowflakes” with fragile psyches or “authoritarians” who care more about their pet causes than about democratic values such as tolerance, compromise and respect for opposing points of view. Students at Harvard, where I teach, returned from winter break in January to an institution that appeared determined to tackle this problem head-on. An email from the undergraduate dean reminded them that “The purpose of a Harvard education is not to shield you from ideas you dislike or to silence people you disagree with; it is to enable you to confront challenging ideas, interrogate your own beliefs, make up your mind and learn to think for yourself."

In April 2013, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad attends Palestinian government cabinet meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah. He urges for new elections and says it's the only way to heal a bitter rift between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed

Analysis & Opinions - The New York Times

Building the Palestinian State

| Feb. 09, 2024

“If only we had a partner for peace.”

That’s been the refrain in the Israel-Palestinian conflict for as long as I’ve followed it. But the truth is you don’t need just a partner; you need two partners able to deliver at the same time.

Please listen here for an interview with MEI Senior Fellow, Dr. Salam Fayyad, on 'The Ezra Klein Show' podcast with the New York Times.

(Ryan Carter/Ministry of Presidential Affairs via AP)

(Ryan Carter/Ministry of Presidential Affairs via AP)

Newspaper Article - The National

The UAE-Saudi Relationship Isn’t About Competition

| Feb. 08, 2024

Over the past few months, much has been said about the relationship between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, some of it strikingly shallow and misinformed, with recent op-eds characterising it as a “rivalry” or a “rift”, and one going as far as calling it a “theatre of confrontation” as though their relations are a zero-sum game. Such alarmism led me to wonder if we were even discussing the same two countries.

Current and pre-revolution Iranian banknotes and foreign currencies are displayed by a vendor at a commercial district in Tehran.

AP Photo/Vahid Salemi

Analysis & Opinions - Responsible Statecraft

Iran’s Economy, So Far Resilient, Now Faces Ultimate Test

| Jan. 31, 2024

After six years of U.S. “maximum pressure,” Iran’s economy continues to defy dire predictions of economic collapse that motivated Trump’s hasty 2018 withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal (also known as the JCPOA). The Biden administration’s continuation of the same policy since 2021 is similarly based on the logic that the weaker Iran’s economy is, the more likely Tehran will bend to Washington’s will. The economy’s resilience is evidenced by the fact that in the first nine months of the Iranian fiscal year (March 21 to December 20, 2023), GDP grew by a 6.7% annual rate, and it is very likely to finish the year in two months with a growth rate exceeding the World Bank and IMF forecasts of about 4%.

Houthi supporters attend a rally

AP/Osamah Abdulrahman

Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Affairs

Iran's New Best Friends

| Jan. 29, 2024

Mohammad Tabaar argues that the attacks on Red Sea ships unintentionally advance the Houthis agenda by allowing it to claim that it is fighting imperialism, and the attacks help Iran by fortifying its political foothold in the Middle East. Washington should therefore cease the strikes. It should, instead, work to halt the war in Gaza. The United States should also try to strengthen the region's diplomatic agreements and shore up its security framework. Otherwise, the Houthi-Iranian partnership will only grow stronger, as will Tehran's leverage in the region.

Map of East Africa and Middle East from CIA World Factbook

CIA World Factbook

Analysis & Opinions - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Crafting an Effective United States Policy for the Middle East Post-Gaza War

| Jan. 24, 2024

It should be evident that a major reassessment of United States policy is required in the wake of Hamas’ brutal  attacks on Israelis on October 7, 2023, followed by Israel’s massive retaliation causing a major humanitarian disaster in Gaza and risking expansion of the conflict with regional consequences. There can be no going back to the status quo ante. The time has come for sober and objective reflection in Washington of what went wrong, lessons learned and how to proceed to craft a strategic approach toward the Middle East that reflects the realities on the ground while shedding past mindsets and policies that have simply failed.

Palestinians walk past the building destroyed in the Israeli Bombardment of Gaza (AP Photo/Mohammed Hajjar)

AP Photo/Mohammed Hajjar

Paper - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Overcoming Barriers to Resolving Gaza and Beyond

| Jan. 23, 2024

As of early January 2024, discussion of the Gaza war heavily focuses on its humanitarian costs, cease fire possibilities, hostage prospects, and “day after” options. Yet what longer-term strategy guides actions on these vital issues while offering a more positive vision for Israelis, Palestinians, and key regional players? This paper sketches such a vision and strategy, but far more importantly, highlights the formidable barriers to its realization—and the elements of a realistic path to overcoming those barriers. With old political assumptions jolted by recent events, an opening exists for a new and better regional reality to take shape.